Trace is a memorial environmental sound installation that is site-specific to the network of hiking trails near the Burgess Shale fossil beds in Yoho National Park, British Columbia. The installation transforms the trails into a landscape of sound recordings that commemorate personal loss. Walking through the installation is like wandering through a memorial sculpture garden where, instead of visible monuments, visitors weave their way through memorial poems, songs and stories that play in response to their movement through the landscape. The project explores loss and transformation in an historical moment when concepts of memory, presence and absence are undergoing significant shifts in cultural meaning. This drift in meaning is directly related to developments in the field of information technology. For this reason, I have chosen to use the computer as a culturally inscribed tool and medium that offers clues to our contemporary understanding of time, memory and mortality.
Trace was produced in it's first iteration in the summer of 1999. The database of memorials expands over time as interested participants continue to contribute memorial songs, poems and stories. The first launch of the installation featured works by Diana Berry, Susan Davis, Sarah Drury, Stelios Gannoulakis, Joanna Goodman, Henry Israeli, Bruce Ledbetter, Akiko Matsumoto, Lisa Moren, Tim Nohe, Mayumi Reinhard, Thomas Rodebaugh, Vivian Adelberg Rudow, Melora Zaner-Godsey, and Sirpa Vaara.
Components of the Installation
The system consists of two primary parts: a digital database of recordings created or commissioned by contributors; and a knapsack equipped with various technologies including a small computer, headphones, and a global positioning satellite receiver.
Recordings are made as memorials to people who have died or as pieces that explore themes of death, loss and transformation more generally. They are prepared in advance and submitted to the database by interested contributors. Memorials may take the form of a traditional elegy, dirge, or requiem, or they may be stories, acoustic sounds, or experimental compositions.
The database is accessed when a visitor to the hiking trail dons a knapsack and hikes the trail. Memorials are played back in response to each hiker's movement and position in the landscape, which is detected by a computer/gps unit in the hiker's knapsack. Recordings are heard through open-cel headphones and playback is at low volume so that memorials intermingle with ambient sounds of the natural environment.
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